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Clay on Liston: “Nothing but a Tramp”

May 27, 1963 - Heavyweight contender Cassius Clay (seated right) says the trouble with Sonny Liston is that he is too ugly. “He’s nothing but a tramp,” sneered Clay when London reporters asked him his opinion of the world champion. Clay had just stepped off an airliner that brought him to fight British heavyweight Henry Cooper (left) June 18. “I’m just filling in time until I meet Liston,” Clay continued. “That great big ugly bear, he’s too ugly to be world champion. Real fighters are good-looking — like me. Look at me. I don’t have a mark on me.” The Louisville heavyweight confessed he didn’t feel too well after flying the Atlantic. “I hate airplanes. They don’t agree with me, and I’m going to take out my bad temper on Henry Cooper. Tell him not to cross my path before the fight. If he does, I’m liable to start things then and there.” Asked how long the British heavyweight would last against him, Clay replied: “I could end it in two rounds, but it’s going to be five. I’ll get him in the fifth.” When Clay was called to the microphone to make a speech during the press luncheon, he said: “Gentlemen, I need no introduction. I’m the greatest, most beautiful fighter the world ever saw. It will be the greatest show London has ever seen. Cooper is crazy to fight me. The kid is asking to be murdered.” The “kid” Cooper, by the way, is 29; Clay is 21. “After this fight,” Clay continued, “I’m off to Las Vegas to challenge the ‘Bear’ for the world championship.” Cooper, an amiable sort, was quietly amused by Clay’s remarks and said: “I came to meet him, but all I’ve done is hear him. If he fights as well as he talks, then our Wembley date should be a great night for boxing.”


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